Jonathan Edwards: Original Sin

Status
Not open for further replies.

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
This isn’t really an exegetical defense of Original Sin as it is an extended book review on Dr Taylor’s works. There is some exegesis, and Edwards does make a few good comments on concreated holiness, but the real fireworks are at the end.

Identity with Adam: mankind has a “constituted connexion” with Adam as an acorn does with an oak (IV.II. n). Edwards acknowledges, but does not develop, a federal principle in Adam. In this same section Edwards affirms creationism as opposed to traducianism.

Edwards’ conclusion is that Adam’s posterity is one with him (IV.III). It is a “constituted oneness or identity.” This allows him to solve the problem of imputation. “By the law of union there is a communion and co-existence of acts” between Adam and his posterity (see note). That’s his imputation: “his posterity are viewed in the same place with their father.”

Edwards pays a high price for his doctrine of imputation. Strictly speaking, nothing is imputed. If I do something, you don’t impute my doing the act to me. I simply did it. Likewise, since Edwards has identified Adam and his posterity, his posterity just as equally did the act. There is nothing to impute.

Edwards tries to get around these problems of identity by using analogies of body/soul, tree/acorn. He takes Locke’s theory of identity as “sameness of consciousness” and adds a new twist. Personal identity depends on a law of nature, namely the “sovereign will and agency of God” (p. 223 in the Banner of Truth edition). Here is his argument:

(1) Personal identity depends on God’s constitution.
(2) God continually upholds and preserves his creation.
(3) Our dependent existence is an “effect and must have some cause” and the cause is either an antecedent cause or the power of the creator.
(4) It cannot be an antecedent cause because no passive thing can create a cause in space and time that is greater than itself, and so must pass out of existence. If it is out of existence it cannot create a new cause.
(5) “Therefore, the existence of created substances, in each successive moment, must be the effect of the immediate agency, will, and power of God”.
(5*) New exertions of divine power are needed to keep things from dropping into nothing.

But isn’t Edwards simply saying that God upholds things every moment, and if God didn’t exist, they wouldn’t? No. He goes on to say:

(6) God is “causing its existence in each successive moment.” In fact, he says this is “altogether equivalent to an immediate production out of nothing, at each moment” (224).

Criticisms

There are some major problems with this. If God’s reconstituting humanity at each new moment does all the heavy lifting, then why is there any need for a metaphysical oneness with Adam? Couldn’t God just view it like that? Oliver Crisp points out that “Divine fiat is doing all the explanatory work” (Jonathan Edwards Among the Theologians 121). Further, it appears that not only is God recreating the world at every moment, he is creating sin at every moment. This is a fatal price to pay.

Unfortunately, I think JE paid too high a price. He must surrender either his view of Original Sin or his view of the Will. In the latter he said that each moment’s prior state was the cause of the next state. But here he seems to say that the antecedent cause has no real existence. If it doesn’t, then it can’t cause the next state, pace Freedom of the Will.

Oliver Crisp has raised yet a bigger problem: if God is recreating me each moment, and I am a sinful human, then is God creating evil and sin each moment?
 

James Marr

Puritan Board Freshman
Job 6v4. For the arrows of the Almighty [are] within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.
 

James Marr

Puritan Board Freshman
Psa 32v2. Blessed [is] the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit [there is] no guile.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
If I do something, you don’t impute my doing the act to me. I simply did it. Likewise, since Edwards has identified Adam and his posterity, his posterity just as equally did the act. There is nothing to impute.
I liked the rest of the review, but I am not entirely sure about this argument. In Psalm 32, David had committed sin; but it wasn't imputed to him, which was a happy surprise and a demonstration of mercy. So if "impute" is glossed as "laid to x account" or "held against" or "attributed" it is possible both to commit sin and to have that committed sin imputed to you in judicial reckoning.
 

James Marr

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes David didn't which would mean that others do such as Esau. Towards the end of Vol 2 in Edwards works he deals i think very well with how God permits sin. Ultimately its something our finite minds cannot reconcile praise the Lord for His infinite wisdom in being able to do so.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I liked the rest of the review, but I am not entirely sure about this argument. In Psalm 32, David had committed sin; but it wasn't imputed to him, which was a happy surprise and a demonstration of mercy. So if "impute" is glossed as "laid to x account" or "held against" or "attributed" it is possible both to commit sin and to have that committed sin imputed to you in judicial reckoning.
I understand. Let's try it a different way. If I am ontologically identical with Adam, then why do I need a federal head?
 

James Marr

Puritan Board Freshman
That is what covenant is a real union, God looks on all mankind through covenant as united with Adam really and actually united with Adam through covenant. God entered into covenant with man and most especially with Abraham, God united Himself with man at that point. If this covenant is broken which it already was due to fall then I God will fulfill its cursings by death itself. God unites really and actually through covenant placing Himself under the covenant broken by Adam.. The perpetual nature of covenant and creation is seen in the Gen 3.15. Now if God is covenanting with His creation and creatures then all will be fulfilled so union of each within it is very real in the sight of God.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
That is what covenant is a real union, God looks on all mankind through covenant as united with Adam really and actually united with Adam through covenant. God entered into covenant with man and most especially with Abraham, God united Himself with man at that point. If this covenant is broken which it already was due to fall then I God will fulfill its cursings by death itself. God unites really and actually through covenant placing Himself under the covenant broken by Adam.. The perpetual nature of covenant and creation is seen in the Gen 3.15. Now if God is covenanting with His creation and creatures then all will be fulfilled so union of each within it is very real in the sight of God.
When God covenants with me, I am not ontologically one with him.
 

James Marr

Puritan Board Freshman
Obviously not because you are finite, but in covenanting with you in grace you enter into those attributes that begin to transform you into the image of His Son who is God in the flesh.. Words will always fail to describe that relationship.. Praise be to God.
 

James Marr

Puritan Board Freshman
Ecc 3v14. I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth [it] , that [men] should fear before him.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
Obviously not because you are finite, but in covenanting with you in grace you enter into those attributes that begin to transform you into the image of His Son who is God in the flesh.. Words will always fail to describe that relationship.. Praise be to God.
Communicable and incommunicable attributes
I'm pretty sure God didn't say I am ontologically one with him.
From what I can gather here, James does seem to accept that we are not ontologically one with God. Nonetheless, he seems to be saying that we, meaning the elect and regenerate sinners in the covenant of grace, are ethically made partakers of the divine nature being conformed to God's image in grace and glory.

James, I think your use of "enter into those attributes" may have caused some confusion. Let me know if I have accurately discerned your meaning.
 

James Marr

Puritan Board Freshman
Think if you can of life beyond this life with God in eternity. Those attributes of God that He communicated to man at creation being made in His image will be made manifest, this life in the covenant of grace is but a foretaste a very small and limited foretaste... Language use is always limited to describe our union with Christ through the Holy Spirit.
 

James Marr

Puritan Board Freshman
Dichotomies are great mysteries with respect to God yet He is able to bridge the unabridgable. Think of a heaven and a hell existing at the same time throughout eternity. Think of the sinless One being made sin. 2Co 5v21. For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I understand what you are saying now. That's not how the words are generally used, nor is it what Edwards said.
 

James Marr

Puritan Board Freshman
Its difficult to actually and explicitly know what a person meant by their writings from 300 years ago.. If we are to look at Edwards over the entirety of his writings and sermons then i would imagine we might find some and most likely very few inconsistencies although most generally all his writings would most definitely concur with a very orthodox and sound doctrinally exegesis of the Holy Scriptures. Without Edwards here to answer we are always liable to the accusation of being anachronistic.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Its difficult to actually and explicitly know what a person meant by their writings from 300 years ago.. If we are to look at Edwards over the entirety of his writings and sermons then i would imagine we might find some and most likely very few inconsistencies although most generally all his writings would most definitely concur with a very orthodox and sound doctrinally exegesis of the Holy Scriptures.
Sometimes that's true, sometimes it isn't. I'm well-read on Edwards and 18th century theology and philosophy. I know what he is saying. Charles Hodge said the same thing about Edwards. So did Dabney and Shedd. Hodge said Edwards was a pantheist and no one would accuse Hodge of being ignorant of what Edwards meant or of being a theological light-weight.

Without Edwards here to answer we are always liable to the accusation of being anachronistic.
By that same logic, we shouldn't be able to understand him when he is orthodox, either.
 

hammondjones

Puritan Board Sophomore
Geerhardus Vos said:
On Continuous Creation: Jonathan Edwards, who brought the sovereignty of God dangerously close to the borders of pantheism, defended this opinion in his book on original sin.
Geerhardus Vos said:
On Mediate Imputation: Likewise, the doctrine of mediate imputation assets that Adam's sin is only imputed to us because we possess with him the same depravity. The Formula of the Helvetic Consensus expressed itself against this conception decisively and unambiguously. The theory was adopted by the younger Vitringa, Venema, Stapfer, and, so it seems, by Edwards. The New School theory is associated with it.
This is a fairly common observation of Edwards, that he at least spoke in a way that opened him up to this criticism.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
This is a fairly common observation of Edwards, that he at least spoke in a way that opened him up to this criticism.
Continuous creation is a terrible view, since it has God being the author of evil every moment of creation. Mediate imputation is problematic, but not heretical.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top